I've seen some young men not handle humour because they just don't know how. I remember one of my friends from uni - you say something to him, just joking, and although he knew you were joking he couldn't come up with anything in response, so he would just say, "Bash!" and pretend to hit you. Not funny.
Can you role-play humour with him? Teach him some responses he can use? difficult child 3 gets ideas from his computer games - he quotes some of THEIR comeback lines (often inappropriately, but sometimes he gets it right).
We use humour at home and teach the kids by example and by role-play how to respond. Things we have had to teach:
- ALWAYS assume the other person is joking and not being nasty, even if you're fairly sure they ARE being nasty - responding with humour is always safer and can defuse nastiness. It can also make that nastiness bounce back on the person being nasty.
- NEVER explain a joke. If you have to take the time to explain the joke then it didn't work. Move on to the next joke (we're still working on this one).
- read a lot and store up a library of possible responses and jokes. Very few people can genuinely ad-lib.
- you don't have to laugh hard out loud to show you appreciate a joke. A smile works even better. Only laugh if you really can't help it and try to not overdo it.
difficult child 3 reads a lot of MAD magazine and is always asking me to explain the jokes. I know he is deliberately doing this to study humour so he can duplicate it. He loves being funny, he's just not too good at it yet. difficult child 1, on the other hand - he's finally got the knack. He can even out-quip one of our local professional stand-up blokes (who actually is very difficult child himself and isn't that good at ad-lib either, without a learned script). I remember one time difficult child 1 got going in an unofficial joke competition with this guy, we had to invent a chore for difficult child 1 to get him out of the room before the comedian lost his sense of humour.